What if someone told you in 1970 (assuming you were around then), that during your lifetime people would be walking around with supercomputers in their pockets 1,000 times more powerful than the ones powering the Apollo rockets that year? What would you have thought the workplace would look like today? I probably would have envisioned flying cars, teleportation, and robots indistinguishable from humans.
And yet, here we are in 2015 and on the surface the workplace looks pretty much like it did back then. We sit at desks with telephones, calculators and coffee cups, looking out at parking lots filled with cars that look pretty similar to those from 40 years ago. The big difference is the computers inside the cars, on our desktops and the supercomputers in our pockets (aka smartphones).
So where are the humanoid robots and jetpacks? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the future. We used all that processing power to build ideas rather than physical products. We humans find that the real value is in information.
Sure, the cars we drive are packed with technology, but the companies that make them struggle as always with recalls, periods of marginal profitability and even occasional bankruptcies. The real beneficiary of our supercomputer horsepower is in companies like Google that don’t make physical products, but instead provide access to information. Founded just 17 years ago, the company is worth over $400 billion. Another example is the Business Insider website. Founded just six years ago, it was just acquired this week (9.29.15) for almost $400 million.
So how does this manifest in the workplace? The reason both of those companies are worth so much is that they provide people with information. And it’s the supercomputing power we all carry with us that makes our consumption of that information possible.
Your employees carry that same technology, which means that they can receive and digest information about your company just as easily as from Google or Business Insider. If you believe information has tremendous value, then you should ask yourself how you and your company can use that processing power to get information to your employees in a faster, better way.
You might think that email is a decent way of deploying information, but open rates for company email are low. Plus, many employees don’t have company email accounts. Email just isn’t a good conduit for all the types of content that you likely need to convey, such as Word, Excel & PowerPoint docs, videos, websites and company data. Still, most companies continue to use email because good alternatives are hard to find.
The trick is to get employees to want to use whatever platform you’re using. Think about it: Google is super easy to use and lightning fast, which makes it fun to use. Business Insider uses large photos and short, leading headlines to draw the reader in, along with the “5 videos you won’t believe!!”- type feature to keep readers on their site.
We business communicators need to study those techniques and apply them to our internal communications. If we can harness the power of our information flowing through the supercomputers in our employees’ pockets, we can unlock value in ways never before possible.